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Network Designed To Energize, Inspire Women Grocery Executives


by Chelsea Matzen / Director, NGA Foundation

Are you ready to join one of the most energizing and inspiring executive development programs in the grocery industry?

The first meeting of the Executive Female Leaders Network (EXFL) offered a robust content platform focusing on leadership development, industry trends and peer networking. But it was much more than that – it was a truly unique experience for the independent grocery industry, the first step in what we hope will be an ongoing journey toward the growth and enhancement of women’s careers in the independent sector.

At that first meeting, launched by the Women Grocers of America this past October in Washington, D.C., there was a feeling among all the participants that we were on the threshold of what promises to be a new era for career development.

Kristin Popp, EVP of Woodman’s Food Markets and WGA president, was most impressed by “the energy and connections developed by creating a space for female executives in the industry to come together.” While there was a lot of compelling actionable content, Popp said, “My personal takeaway was seeing the need for this opportunity to support women at this level as they face very different challenges in their career journeys. Providing that opportunity is really something that will change the industry as a whole, both from a retention perspective but also to attract more females to the industry.”

Beyond networking, Katie Hotze – founder and CEO of machine learning-based shopping platform Grocery Shopii – appreciates the guidance on stress management and self-care. “Women absorb so many responsibilities in a household on top of managing our careers; it’s not hard to understand why we often feel exhausted,” she said. “Learning strategies from the training to better focus, manage stress and proactively improve our general happiness was worth its weight in gold.” 

Heidi Huff, VP of business partnerships for IGA, envisions the content growing along with the group’s numbers. “The grocery industry has long been a male-dominated industry, but there is no reason the industry can’t be more diverse,” she said. “We want to make sure that the content provided is what women in the grocery business need to succeed.”

Popp notes that female leaders face very different challenges. “The idea isn’t to create a male vs. female competition, but more to provide greater opportunities to work alongside each other more effectively. Providing that unique support is really the goal, and this is a step forward to do that. Members of the group will guide us on how to most effectively support them.”

For Hotze, the guidance is already making inroads in her routine. “One session required attendees to invest six hours in better understanding how each of us individually manages internal and external factors that contribute to stress. Three hours into this, I was slotting time blocks to take a 30-minute walk every day, reshaping how I view high-stress factors in my life and listing phrases to help me better communicate with my team, that I later taped to my desk. This training allowed me to return to work empowered.”

To be sure, EXFL is pushing WGA to a whole new level of support. “WGA has really gained traction to continue moving forward as a relevant and necessary organization in the industry,” Popp observed. “The next exciting launch will be the Emerging Female Leaders (EFL) group as we continue to look for ways to support, attract and retain females at all levels in the industry.” 

Hotze anticipates that the social media buzz generated for the group by its participants will help drive EXFL’s growth. “When you spend 48 hours in the same room with a group of women with similar interests, you can’t help but create a bond,” she said. “This inaugural group has created a powerful ripple.”

Have you been convinced to join yet? These leaders are ready to help you off the fence.

“Attending EXFL was one of the most energizing and inspiring conferences I have attended,” Popp said. “To be a part of a group of female leaders who are looking to support and help in each other’s successes while sharing valuable information regarding current industry topics and female-specific challenges, as well as receiving personal and professional development from executives within their industries – honestly, I would say you can’t not try it.”

Hotze agrees: “I was on the phone with a CPG executive friend, and I told her that her attendance at future EXFL events is non-negotiable. EXFL was my favorite event of the 2022 year, hands down. The camaraderie and passion within this group was tangible. These were women looking to open doors for each other, remove barriers and solve problems together. There was a real sense of tribe, and I expect that will only get stronger as this group grows.”

Huff said EXFL is the “perfect place to expand yourself, your network and your knowledge. EXFL wants to help you be your best self in the grocery industry.”

For more information on the EXFL’s first meeting, click here.

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